Get Started Hiking
Hiking is an incredibly healthy activity and an amazing way to experience the outdoors, but it can also be a little intimidating to get started. We have the expertise and gear to make getting started easy. All you need are a few essentials to be able to go out and hit the trails.
1. What kind of hikes are for you?
These last anywhere from a few hours to an entire day. The terrain can vary from easy city greenways to rugged climbs up tough mountains. You’ll need the appropriate day pack for gear as well as boots—or shoes—designed for day hiking.
From a simple overnight trip to a weeklong backpacking expedition, multi-day hikes require more gear and a much larger pack to carry it. Sturdier multi-day hiking boots are also needed to provide support for a heavier load. If you’re new to hiking, we recommend going with an experienced backpacker on your first overnight trip.
2. What are the right hiking boots for you?
Built for hikes of a few hours to a full day, these include lower cut hiking shoes and even trail-running shoes. You can choose from lightweight, ventilated styles to sturdier waterproof models. Lightweight styles work well if you’re hiking maintained trails without major obstacles. Choose a sturdier boot if you like to hike on rugged trails with rocks, roots and steep pitches. Just be sure to break in your boots by walking around the house or neighborhood for a few hours before you hit the trails.
Designed for expeditions lasting a weekend to a full week with the support necessary when you’re carrying over 30 pounds of gear. Like day hiking boots, you can pick a lightweight ventilated model or a sturdier waterproof style. Again, break in your boots before going out on a multiday trek.
3. Find the right pack for your hiking adventures
Built for hikes of a few hours to a full day, with capacity for food, water and extra layers. Total capacity can be anywhere from 15 to 35 liters. The larger end of this size range can be used for overnight trips by hikers who like to pack ultralight.
Designed for expeditions lasting a weekend, a full week or even longer. They feature generous capacity to carry everything you need, including clothes, sleeping bag, tent, several days’ worth of food and more. Capacity ranges from 35 to 90 liters.
4. Always stay hydrated
You should drink 1 liter of water every two hours to stay properly hydrated while hiking. Over the course of a full day, that’s a lot of water! You’ll need to be equipped to carry the water you need, and on multiday trips you’ll need to find water on the trail and make sure it’s safe to drink. There are several ways to keep hydrated on the trail.
There is a huge variety of bottles you can take on the trail. Hard-sided bottles are durable and easily fit into exterior pack pockets, but they can be a little bulky. Soft, collapsible water bottles fit inside a pack very well and are in general a lighter option.
These packs are equipped with a sleeve that can carry a hydration reservoir. A built-in port lets you snake the drinking tube from the reservoir to where you can access it while you hike. Reservoirs are sold separately.
On long hikes and multiday expeditions you’ll need to obtain water along the trail from a creek, stream or pond. It’s important you treat the water to remove bacteria, viruses and other impurities; you don’t want to get sick in the middle of a weeklong backpacking trip.
5. Stay warm, dry and comfortable with the right layers
You’ll need the right layers and rainwear to stay warm and dry on any hike. It’s also important you have extra layers available in case the weather changes suddenly. From base layers that wick moisture away from your skin to technical rainwear, you’ll need a complete outfit to stay comfortable. The main rule of thumb is to avoid cotton. It loses all insulating ability when wet so wearing it in bad weather can lead to dangerous hypothermia.
6. Know where you are – and how to stay safe
No matter where you decide to hike, it’s important to know where you are and where you want to go at all times. We recommend purchasing a trail guide for the area you’re hiking and studying it so you’re familiar with the terrain. It’s also a good idea to let family and friends where you’re going and leave a written itinerary.
A compass and the knowledge of how to use it is a great investment. You’ll always know what direction you’re headed without having to rely on battery-powered devices. That said, a modern GPS unit is a super-convenient way to stay properly oriented. Most have the capability to store maps so you can see the surrounding terrain easily.
Hiking with poles takes over 20% of the stress off your knees and ankles as you hike. They also help you keep upright in steep or slippery terrain. They’re especially helpful when backpacking and you’re carrying a heavy load that may affect your stability.
The final necessity is a well-stocked first-aid kit to treat any bumps, bruises, cuts and bug bites that may happen on the trail. We offer compact, lightweight kits that are designed for hiking.
Other Gear to Consider